Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer is... >GASP!<... ending!!!!!!

Well, fellow teachers, the end (or shall I say the beginning?) is near... time for Back to School! And before going any further, I just want to mention that I received my first B2S email ad, from Staples, on JUNE 19TH! Come on people, give us a break, eh?

Some big changes this summer... I have moved to a new city, and will be teaching at a new school. This year I'll be teaching junior high, 7th and 8th grades. Hence, LOTS of work to be done. Not the least of which will be re-starting color-coded kitchens. So glad I bought almost all of the smaller colored equipment for my last school with my own cash; however, of course very sad to have to leave behind my beautiful stand mixers and gorgeous colored pots and pans... sigh...

This Monday will be the first day I get to work in my classrooms. SO MUCH WORK TO DO. The kids start on the 21st, so I have one week to get as much as I can done. The good news is I won't start cooking for a few weeks, so I could hold all classes in the sewing room, giving me extra time to get the foods room in order.

I am also of course working on revamping curriculum - going from high school to junior high means big change! At my new school I get 7th & 8th graders together for one semester. Technically I suppose I could do the same thing with every class every day and only have one prep, a completely alien concept to me. However, I think you have to be a real masochist to want to run 6 foods labs in one day. My plan is to create a curriculum with four different units, and then stagger them among my classes. The first unit everyone will do the same, and then two of my classes will cook, two will sew, and two will study child care (from a babysitting angle); then they'll rotate every 4-5 weeks. This way only two of my classes get my first run in each of those subjects, and by the end of the year I will have taught the sewing, cooking, and child care units six different times - it's like combining six years of teaching into one!

My other challenge is that some of the 8th graders took this class last year, and they are mixed in with the 7th graders and the first-time 8th graders. I imagine that I'll be different enough from the last teacher that the veterans won't feel like they're doing the same thing again, but I need to plan for next year. I am tentatively sketching out a two-year curriculum, so that there aren't repeats. Like covering "cooking" one year and "baking" the next, alternating sewing projects between years, and swapping out child care for financial management or something else. 

One great thing about my new school is that they offer several professional development opportunities in the period before school begins. Yesterday I attended an all-day session on differentiated instruction, and I have to say it was the best workshop I have ever attended. Very informative, very useful, and immediately applicable. I'm excited to implement what I've learned!

One thing that I'm working on this weekend is "Welcome Back" postcards. I like to send one to each student the week before school starts. While it seems a little "elementary", a lot of students mention it throughout it the year (and it helps with the parents as well). I haven't been able to order my postcards with pre-printed contact info on them yet because I only just learned my contact info. So, instead, I'm using recipe cards!

I just write a very short message - welcome back, I'm your FACS teacher, see you on the first day, yada yada - then stamp and address on the other side. I don't have the greetings or addresses on these yet, as I'm still waiting for my rosters, but those'll be the last things I have to slap on 'em before mailing 'em.

Well, back to work for me! I'll keep you posted on any beginning of the school year ideas I come up with. Good luck with your own preparation!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sewing Project - Rag Quilts

It's been quite some time since I've posted, and for good reason: the end of the school year, moving to a new city, changing school districts, unpacking, preparing for new job, laziness... pretty intense stuff!

Anyway, here was our final project for the semester: Rag Quilts! These are a great beginner quilt, because with the ruffles in between each piece you don't need to worry about them lining up perfectly. Here are a few samples:

Mickey & Minnie - she made this for her mom. Awwww.

Blurry focus, sorry. This one is flannel.

Close-up. Once this is washed, the frills will be softer and more curled.

It was ambitious, but they were a very motivated class - I just wish I had remembered to take more pictures of the final products!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Amazing World of Keep-Tube

YouTube has a lot to offer to a mild-mannered FACS teacher, from close-up demonstrations on how to chop an onion and thread a sewing machine to home potty training videos and  3D shaken baby simulations. Yet invariably when you try to show a short video in class your connection is weak and the buffering monster thwarts your noble plans. The solution? The miracle of Keep-Tube! This website allows you to download any YouTube video directly to your computer so that you can play it like any other media you have saved - no more buffering!

And as for that 3D shaken baby simulation, if you teach Child Development/Parenting/Child Care/etc, you should really check this out. There's a watermark and you'll have to narrate, but boy will it leave an impression on your students. There are a few other short shaken baby videos I also show from YouTube, but I have no doubt that this one is permanently etched in their brains.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sewing Project - ConKerr Cancer

Once kids have mastered the art of the pillowcase, we complete a second one for ConKerr Cancer. This is an organization started by the mother of a child with cancer. To brighten his hospital room, she sewed cheerful pillowcases for him. This led to sewing pillowcases for other children, and continued to grow into a national program which donates thousands of pillowcases annually to children throughout the US. I show a video (thank you, YouTube) to introduce the project, and from that point on the kids in my classes are hooked - they really enjoy getting to create things to make others happy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sewing Project - Reversible Tote Bags

Here is a project my class just completed - reversible tote bags!

The bags turned out super cute!  It combined all of the skills they've learned so far, plus added the use of fusible interfacing and the making of straps. We used this pattern, which I picked up on a whim a few years ago from Joann Fabrics.

The bag from the pattern is pretty big, so I reduced it to the size that would hold a standard notebook/textbook. This year one of the kids decided to make it a one-strap satchel rather than a two-strap tote, and they all followed suit - with really great results! It was also a really fun project for me, because the kids have become so confident in their sewing skills I didn't have to give really detailed instructions for each step - in fact, most of the time the kids could figure out on their own what they were supposed to do next. I love that! Pretty great for a class that just started at the beginning of January!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Appetizing title, eh? Here's how we deal with draining grease in my cooking classes (I actually learned this from my husband, who of course does it this way because his mother did it this way) - turkey basters! Way easier than dealing with the muss and fuss of a strainer.

Suck up the grease, squirt it into the "grease can," move on. No need to remove the meat from the pan, get itty bitty pieces stuck in the holes of the strainer (which never seems to get completely clean), or splatter everywhere while trying to get a wide skillet to empty into a narrow sieve. 

Since it's also in the picture, here's my plug for a Pampered Chef product. While for the most part I have not partaken of the Pampered Chef kool-aid (since you can usually get something of similar quality much cheaper elsewhere), there are a few key products offered by P.C. that I absolutely love. Above on the left you see the "Mix 'n Chop" - this thing is terrific for breaking up ground meat while browning. I saw a friend using one once and purchased one for my home kitchen, then after a bit purchased four more for my school kitchens. So much more efficient than a spatula, a spoon, or even a potato masher. So the next time one of your "friends" drafts you into attending one of their parties, pick up one of these guys - you'll love it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sewing Project - Monkeys!

February 2, 2016 Update: Over 100 new FACS resources are now available in exchange for a small donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - see details here!

For hand sewing practice, my classes have always really enjoyed creating monkeys - particularly the boys, go figure. They are simple little felt creatures with button eyes and stitched noses and mouths.

If you're wondering what happened to the one on the bottom left, the creator of that particular monkey told me that "He was in 'Nam." Fair enough.


Clipboards are great tools to keep on hand for various activities... unfortunately they can be difficult to keep on hand. Either they wander off, or are borrowed by other teachers and somehow lost, or are "borrowed" by other teachers and never heard from again. I've found that overt personalization not only helps cut down on dwindling numbers, but certainly makes them more fun.

As always, I'm a fan of Snoopification as well. A Sharpie and a projector are all you need!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Survey Monkey!

I like to continually get feedback from my classes. One of the ways I do this is through the use of Survey Monkey. This is a free service that allows you to create 10 question online surveys and have people take them anonymously (there are much fancier options if you upgrade to a paid account, but that's not something I've found to be necessary). I ask for their feedback on the class rules, on my teaching, on activities we've completed, on what they would still like to learn, and then a place for comments in general.

The first time we do this is typically the last day of the first full week of school. The double bonus is that by taking them to the computer lab this early in the term I can quickly find out if there are any login/password issues and get those taken care of right away. Here's an example of the 1st week survey taken in Foods:

My apologies for the insanely small type - gotta love Ctrl +.

Note - I realize that #2 is kind of vague, but I actually get quite a bit of useful information from it. This helps me figure out their first impressions of me, if I've done a good job of introducing and explaining class procedures, and also gives me an idea of the subjects they would like to learn about in class - I try to work in their suggestions whenever possible.

They take surveys at the midterm and end of every quarter as well, which ask more specific questions about the goings-on of the classes. I've found it to be of enormous benefit.

While the online surveys are anonymous, I also require a signed form of feedback at the end of every quarter as well. The instructions are as follows:

Write a full one-page letter including the following:


Dear Mrs. C,

-Describe one thing you learned in this class during ___ quarter
-Describe your favorite thing we did in this class during ___ quarter
-Describe your least favorite thing we did in this class during ___ quarter
-Tell me one thing you want to learn about next quarter
-Finish the page: you may write about anything you wish as long as it is school


I used to just have them write this letter on their own paper, but since I like to keep them it became difficult to control the different sizes and torn pages. So, I now copy lined paper with the intructions on the back and hole-punch them so I can keep them all together in a binder to refer to in the future.

I get some really interesting feedback from these letters - not only do they tell me what they liked/didn't like, but they always include their reasons as well (even though it's not part of the requirements). My favorite is when they tell me they didn't like something, but then admit it's because they just don't like to work - at least they're honest.

One thing I would like to try next year is a feedback bulletin board. I saw it on a teacher's blog and it looks like a great idea - perhaps I'll post on it next September.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Textbook Scavenger Hunt

One thing that tends to drive me batty is when kids act like they don't know how to use a textbook (i.e. "I can't find the definition!" "What page does Chapter 12 start on?!" "What section is that in?!" etc, etc). On the day that I hand out textbooks I also give out a "Book Scavenger Hunt":

I work some kind of "challenge" into it so that the kids race to finish with the correct answers, thereby tricking them into proving that they know how to find everything they would ever need to know how to find in their books on their own. Muahahahahhaaaa....